Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers

Marvolo

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So I finally got a small amount of freetime before bed and so read Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers.

The first thing that strikes me is the light-reading aspect of it - most books I'm so engrossed in that I don't notice the world around me, and can be very annoyed when it does intrude mid-chapter.

With Starship Troopers, I could read and happily chat to my girlfriend because the book was so generally uninvolving. It's not really a story - it's a general first person ramble with story elements but no classic plot in terms of having a situation that the protagonist has to face and resolve - he goes places, does stuff, talks about life in the military a lot. Oh - and then after half-way there's mention of a war.

In terms of construction is reminds myself very much of Brave New World, in that the primary purpose is not to tell a story as much as relate philsophical concepts at the expense of the story. Luckily, Heinlein keeps things more traditional in terms of using the novel format, but it still failed to engross in that regard.

With all that in mind, in hindsight, I have to be completely heretical to other Heinlein readers and say that the film seems to have done the book justice to a large degree, not least by protraying something of the world that Heinlein was trying to communicate, in a way that a film would need to. There's really so little story and substance to the novel itself that any film production would necessarily have to create its own sense of identity with the book as a platform from which to work.

There are a couple of chapters assigned to social philosophy which I was pleased to see - one arguing the benefits of corporal punishment, and the other arguing an alternative political system.

However, while the issue that only military-served personal could have elective rights was interesting, he never really explored the potential challenges to it - maybe it is indeed important to instill social responsibility in people, but my impression is that military personel are trained to take orders rather than use free initiative at every step, so what you have is an electorate with different vulnerabilities.

Also, surely such an electoral basis would be as subject to partisan political problems as any other political system? In other words, the problems he raised with political systems was not due to the fallible nature of the electorate as much as due to the limitations of the political system itself - so changing the basis for acceptance into that electorate cannot address the limitations of existing partisan democracies, because the fundamentals of self-interest above the interest of the electorate will surely remain an issue?

Anyway, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, if anyone's up for discussion. :)

I think Heinlein hinted at something that many people overlook, the relationship between a military constintuency and the ant-like Bugs.

The Bugs are modeled somewhat after ants. They are broken down into castes much the same way ants are and achieve things through this unbroken sense of unwavering unity.

A military constintuency would operate in a similar fashion. All the constituents take orders and learn the value of discipline and unity during their terms of service. Anyone not willing to make this sacrifice cannot vote and thus cannot waver the course that particular nation is committed to taking. The citizens will vote, presumably, in the best interest and at the best advice of those above them. I think he created this system to mirror the society hinted at with the Bugs.

It's just something I noticed. I might be reading too much into it but then again, Heinlein is usually very apt with plot elements such as these.

Edit: In my own rambling I overlooked the original question.

I think the bi-partisan issues would be less of an issue. I just feel that the level of service demanded at the particular time, alongside the lower numbers of voters and representatives, would definately cull some of the bickering.
 

Pyan

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I think Heinlein hinted at something that many people overlook, the relationship between a military constintuency and the ant-like Bugs.
RAH actually compares the Bugs directly with communism:

We were learning, expensively, just how efficient a total communism can be when used by a people actually adapted to it by evolution ....
Perhaps we could have figured this out about the Bugs by noting the grief the Chinese Hegemony gave the Russo-Anglo-Americah Alliance ....
ST: Chapter 11

Interesting that he allied the Russians with the West, considering the book was written in 1959 .....!
 

manephelien

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The trouble with the military is that it doesn't teach people to think. Most just follow orders and that's it. People who question authority and don't follow orders will probably end up in the brig or worse.

So no, I don't think having a meritocracy like ST would be any better than universal suffrage. The only problem is that universal suffrage requires an educated and informed populace to work properly.
 

Urlik

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in my opinion, although most of RAH's books tend to preach, I think the purpose of them, apart from entertainment, is to cause debate and almost force people to question their beliefs, politics and the motives of those who are in power.

ST is a book that succeeds on both counts
 

steve12553

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in my opinion, although most of RAH's books tend to preach, I think the purpose of them, apart from entertainment, is to cause debate and almost force people to question their beliefs, politics and the motives of those who are in power.

ST is a book that succeeds on both counts

Very good point. I was never sure at any given point in this book or many other how serious he was. But he definitely makes you think.
 

Marvolo

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Well, I think he had an idea and was serious about presenting it to the public in the form of a novel. That is what most science fiction authors do. They have an idea and mold it around a story idea that they also have. That doesn't mean they are hoisting a banner of military oligarchy and shouting "Revolution!"

They are simply telling a provocative story.
 

Connavar

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Well, I think he had an idea and was serious about presenting it to the public in the form of a novel. That is what most science fiction authors do. They have an idea and mold it around a story idea that they also have. That doesn't mean they are hoisting a banner of military oligarchy and shouting "Revolution!"

They are simply telling a provocative story.


Thats what surprisingly many people dont get and thats exactly why i loved this book.

Just cause he made a book of the idea and wrote a damn fine book doesnt mean he is as you put it " hoisting a banner of military oligarchy and shouting "Revolution!"


Thats why i almost laugh at the so called crititcs who diss the book for being pro military and faschistic and so on.
 

Urlik

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Well, I think he had an idea and was serious about presenting it to the public in the form of a novel. That is what most science fiction authors do. They have an idea and mold it around a story idea that they also have. That doesn't mean they are hoisting a banner of military oligarchy and shouting "Revolution!"

They are simply telling a provocative story.

not just telling a provocative stor but also including a warning (as most of the really good SF does)

ST carries a warning that is very apt in the present world political climate

if a "free" society is under threat it must be very careful in how it defends itself against the aggressors or it too could turn into an extremist state where civil liberties and rights take second place to the (private) agenda of the government.
 

Marvolo

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not just telling a provocative stor but also including a warning (as most of the really good SF does)

ST carries a warning that is very apt in the present world political climate

if a "free" society is under threat it must be very careful in how it defends itself against the aggressors or it too could turn into an extremist state where civil liberties and rights take second place to the (private) agenda of the government.

That is the repeating cycle of government and citizens anyway. We need reminders, but it is inevitable anyway. Governments are run by people and people are want machines not need machines. Eventually this country will get to a point where a revolution, peaceful or not, will be forced. It might not be in our life times, but it will happen.
 

BeerClark

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First, I have to mention that I hadn't read fiction in years. I am a huge fan of ST - The Movie. When I read the criticism of this book on wikipedia as well as reading someones complaint of how the movie butchered the book.... well.. I HAD to read this book!

One thing I observed that I think counters a lot of criticism of the book is how the whole thing is put togethor and told. This book reads like a true autobiography of someone that served in the military. If you changed some of the settings (and aliens), I don't think anyone could tell the difference between a real autobiography (of a soldier/sailor) and fiction. Whether this was Heinlein's intent or not, I thought that aspect was Brilliant.

The whole book is a potrayal of one man as seen through HIS eyes and mind. I see a lot of criticisms of the book as complaints similar to "...well this is how I would have written it...". Well you DIDN'T write it! Its the life if a career military grunt/officer. The man is risking his life and killing for his job. Of course there is going to be a more positive spin from Rico in justifying (truthfully OR self deluding) his life/career.

I think Heinlein also does some justice in NOT potrying everything as 'perfect'. For example, while it is always a military person in charge, Rico also brings up how there are politicians who simply did their minimal service in order to run for office. I didn't get the impression that those people are looked at as 'pure' military by other veterans. While Heinlein doesn't dwell on the 'less than perfect', he at least shows that it exists.

One thing I noticed that seemed interesting is mention in the book how fighting is inevitable from the human race and that only one can win. It sounded a bit imperialistic. I wonder if in addition to the bugs correlating to communists (as someone mentioned earlier), but if that comment was also corelating to political ideals (democracy vs communism).

I think anything else I would add is repeating was has already been said.
 

Connavar

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A very good post Beerclark.

Sadly what you said isnt repeating cause many people cant get past the military view in the book.

Very few has wrote well thought post like yours.

Its interesting reading your post cause i have thought similer thoughts specially about how the fighting was ineviteable from the human race and that only one can win. I found that typicly human. War is the only way and victory is a must. They didnt even try to communiate to the Bugs in some way codes or anything.
 

eanbardsley

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I have never read Heinlein, but I became interested in him when I read recently that he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, are considered the pillars of modern science fiction. I have only read what I have been introduced to by my Dad, and that is Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. After reading posts here I see he was of the school might makes right. I would tend to put Asimov and Clarke in the school of love is answer. I find it interesting that people whether from one school or the other admire his ability to write, regardless. Clearly this says the the two schools are not a matter of intelligence. I am somewhat of a scientist, by no means a rocket scientist, and so many scientists lack an education in the humanities, which Jacob Bronowski and C.P. Snow have pointed out is dangerous. My values have always come from their philosophic writing, Science and Human Values, and The Two Cultures. Capital punishment? What does Bronowski say about that? He says we fear the murderer in ourselves and end up commiting murder. Anyway very intelligent political analysis in this thread, makes me realize how much I have to learn about politics. I currently feel you can't go wrong with Einstein, and he said a truly advanced civilization would be vegetarian. I don't know, I love meat, perhaps he was more concerned with how cattle can convert a green pasture into mud that won't grow anything for a century if rains enough (that is they are not an effecient means of a viable ecology, perhaps). Or perhaps he meant respect of all life, intelligent or otherwise. I don't even kill spiders in the house anymore, even if my sister hates them. I let them crawl onto a piece of paper and release them outdoors, perhaps it is good for karma, or perhaps letting them be in their natural habitat is good
for the Earth, I don't know, but I do know the earth is the only support system we have currently got, and evolution set things up a certain way, and I am not going to mess with it.
 

j d worthington

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After reading posts here I see he was of the school might makes right. I would tend to put Asimov and Clarke in the school of love is answer.

No, I'd hardly describe Heinlein that way. Most of his work actually examines the mores and ethics of our thinking, and he would sometimes take a position different from his own in order to examine such (though his own biases usually show through in some way). But he was much too intelligent and aware of both history and our capacity for destruction, or to create totalitarian regimes, to be anywhere near that simplistic. Even if one does not like Heinlein, he was a complex writer who, frankly, used the "tall tale" form to address various issues while also attempting to entertain... but also to get debates on important topics going. Starship Troopers was one such instance, as he opened up a debate there that has been going on (now and again) ever since....

I don't even kill spiders in the house anymore, even if my sister hates them. I let them crawl onto a piece of paper and release them outdoors, perhaps it is good for karma, or perhaps letting them be in their natural habitat is good for the Earth, I don't know, but I do know the earth is the only support system we have currently got, and evolution set things up a certain way, and I am not going to mess with it.

LOL... Well, I tend to do this with spiders a lot; but then, I'm a reformed arachnophobe.....:D
 

ghost8772

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Anyone else notice how RAH seems to leave out something critical to how things work or won't work in his books? the society in ST is all well and good, however the idea that it works beacuse all the people with fighting spirit are now in the government didn't hold. I'm aware the he mentioned that the military run state worked because, well, it worked. was fairly close to how things really go on, but beyond revolution? I don't think so. the rules RAH had in the book were that you didn't becoime a citizen of the state unless you did a term of military service. this does not mean that all the people wishing to change the world joined up. just the ones who thought they might like to change the world, could handle following orders, could get the job done as required by the current regime, and didn't die trying. this did not mean that someone who left, didn't sign up in the first place, or just didn't care to join the military in the first place. didn't have the fighting spirit, intelligence, or force of will to "cry revolution" and pull it off. if the government doesn't annoy the masses to the point where they decide to do something different to make life better, then the government is really doing its job. when the majority of the people are starving in the streets, dying because of unopposed invasions, or even having their creature comforts taken away (by their personal defiinition) THEN the cry of revolution is made. (my take at least) personally I liked the book, still get tickled by the 30 second bomb. yeah I saw the comments about society in general, and the pictures he painted about why "this" won't work, or "how in all the holies did THAT work?" (specifically comment about 90% dead headers and 10% combatants in wet navy) wonder if he wasn't a navy man in Korea..... (if he was he was probably a morale officer), but overall I thought it was a decent book about the workings of the average mind of the average person, doing an average job, and being just a little brainwashed about the perfection of society and his place in it.

The Movie. I don't care about political satire etc.... if yer gonna name a movie after a book, do a little bit more than grab the stupid names!!!!!. more books than I care to think about have been butchered in that way. some more subtely than others. (Dracula.... a LOVE STORY? HUH!?!?!?!!??!?!) they could have at least done SOME kind of a nod towards the equipment heinlein described (in as close to loving detail as anything I've seen him describe)
okay enough of my preachiness for now.
 

BeerClark

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Connavar: Thanks

Ghost: It is a shame that Verhoven (ST Movie Director) took so little from the book. According to IMDB, he was even a little insulting to the book. He claimed to have gotten too bored to finish it. But from what I understand, he was writing a screenplay about an interstellar bug war and someone pointed out to him that his story was similar to ST so he decided to combine them.

What are you going to do though... its hollywood!
 

ghost8772

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me? dream of learning how to CGI a few minutes of scenes into the (loosely defined) movie. have been thinking about it over the years, just don't have enough skill in computers (or relevant programs) to pull together what I think would have at least nodded to RAH. The scene I have in mind is where the 'kids" are getting their butts handed to them by the bugs at night, add in several minutes flipping back and forth between the ground troops tripping over their tails and cgi'd insertion of a platoon from orbit (chapter 1 stuff in moving pictures). when casper is alone against bugs, with a holy leg, the part where they hit black fast extend to a TRUE cap trooper using a bug to break some of his momentum, lol, TRUE death from above.... pull back and see the platoon using described heavy infantry weapons to double duty, kill bugs, and make pickup. then fade off to the rest of the movie. might have added a couple million to the bottom line, but would have had about ten times the return from RAH and sci-fi fans seeing someone actually tap SOMETHING straight from a legend, they botched Asimov's three laws, Bicentennial man and a human ordering a robot to help them die?!?!?!?!?!? or in I robot, a robot calculating percentages on who would be likeliest to survive so disregard the person more likely to die?!?!?!? sorry bee in bonnet about Hollywood destroying the pinnacles of legendary author's works. don't even want to list possible horror stories in case someone decided it would be a good thing to run with. sigh, and people wonder why I despise TV, and seem to be snippy on leaving watching movies...
 

eanbardsley

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No, I'd hardly describe Heinlein that way. Most of his work actually examines the mores and ethics of our thinking, and he would sometimes take a position different from his own in order to examine such (though his own biases usually show through in some way).

:D

Well it is nice to know that these three make a love is the answer triangle, as the hindus say it, I definitely want to start reading Heinlein!!!
 

j d worthington

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Well it is nice to know that these three make a love is the answer triangle, as the hindus say it, I definitely want to start reading Heinlein!!!

Hmmm... Not quite sure I'd describe him in that fashion, either... However, love is a theme Heinlein explores quite a bit in his work, from man/woman bisexuality to learning to love others enough to sacrifice oneself in possibly the most difficult way... giving up one's own identity to make things better for the whole (Double Star)...
 

eanbardsley

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Hmmm... Not quite sure I'd describe him in that fashion, either... However, love is a theme Heinlein explores quite a bit in his work, from man/woman bisexuality to learning to love others enough to sacrifice oneself in possibly the most difficult way... giving up one's own identity to make things better for the whole (Double Star)...

Yes, I do get a feeling now for what Heinlein is about, I only use the Hindu phrase for lack of ability to find a better definition. The impression I get though is he might have allot in common with Jack London, who didn't use space and other planets, but nature (Alaska), folk legends (gold miners), and animals (sled dogs) to analyze society and political systems. He was an advocate of Democratic Socialism, which is a compromise between socialism and capitalism I might venture to say, to be exact, while he was concerned "about the plight of the masses", the socialist in him, he was worried about "the loss of individuality", hence his system, not socialism, but democratic socialism. I am a lover of deep meaninful literature, and as wikipedia describes Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein the pillars of modern science fiction, ofcourse it makes all the sense in the world to read Heinlein along with these two, but I just ordered my Foundation and Earth from Amazon, and that sequel to Foundation's Edge I have been long waiting to read, can't wait!!!
 

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